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Plants are an effective resource.

Benefits of Low Impact Landscaping include:

  • Enhanced ecological biodiversity.

  • Food for livestock, humans and wildlife.

  • Provides habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators.

  • Facilitates water conservation.

  • Provide shelter from sun and wind.

  • Helps manage invasive weeds.

  • Provides erosion control and improve soil health.

  • Supports the health of aquatic habitats.

  • Creates borders and privacy screens.

  • Reduces noise, dust, and other types of pollution.

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​Examples of Effective Landscaping

  • Hedgerowssometimes called living fences, shelter belts, windbreaks or conservation buffers.

  • Rain gardens, Bioswales, Bioretention

  • Cover crops, Silvopasture, Alley cropping 

  • Food forests, permaculture

Places that could benefit from Effective Landscaping

  • Urban forestry, Business Parks, Medians

  • City parks, Parking lots

  • Schools, Farms, Houses, and Yards

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Plants reduce energy and maintenance costs

Shade from trees keeps homes and yards cooler in the summer.

In the winter, Trees and shrubs slow the wind and reduce wind chill. 

Ground covering plants reduce the amount of water evaporating from the soil which therefore requires less water.

Soil effectively covered by plants, shades out weed seeds, so requires less maintenance than landscape with exposed soil.

Plants protect the soil from wind and water erosion and reduce the amount of pollutants that enter our waterways.


There are many ways plants can be effectively used in the landscape, but plant selection and proper planting and care are vital.

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Plant needs

Plants all need the same things, but they don't all have the same needs. 

Some plants need more sun, some need more shade.

Some plants need a lot of water, some need very little,

and everything in between…

Putting the right plant in the right place, not only increases the likelihood of a happier healthy plant, but also reduces the likelihood of big problems later.

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Step 1. Evaluate what you have to work with.

  • Is it flat or Steep?

  • Is it Wet or Dry?

  • Sunny or Shady?

Are there things in the way?


  • Pipes?

  • Powerlines?

  • easements?

  • Is there a house blocking the sunlight? 

  • Does the roof restrict the amount of water getting to the plants underneath.

The physical aspects that are there, will direct how you can or should proceed. 

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Good planning at the beginning can prevent future headaches.

Plants for Shade

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Plants for Sun

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Create interest with variety

A lot of landscaping uses repetition of very few plants in a symmetrical design. While it can be attractive, using a variety of plants adds interest and beauty. it also reduces the possibility of significant plant failure due to disease and/or pests. (Because most pests and diseases are host specific, if you have only one type of plant an infestation will do a lot more damage than if you have a variety of plants, because they won’t all be susceptible to the pest.) Having a variety also increases the food and shelter benefits to wildlife such as birds and bees.

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The beauty of color

Of course, color can make a big difference in art.
The gardener’s color palette is made of plants. Elderberry, viburnum, hebe, fruiting shrubs, Groundcovers, perennials, flowering bulbs, etc. show color in their leaves, their flowers, their fruit, even their bark. 
There are many varieties and colors of plants suited to the different landscape environments. Pay attention to the needs of the plants, but don’t be afraid to try new plants. Remember variety is beautiful and decreases the likelihood of many problems.
You can combine subtle hues with splashes of color, use a lot of bright colors, or coordinate hues of a single color palette in your landscape. 

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When selecting plants, consider the form, color, and texture, as well as light, soil, and moisture requirements.


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Season of interest
Spring Summer Fall Winter





Bloom time
Spring Summer Fall Winter


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From the group of site appropriate plants, choose a
combination plants of
different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures

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The Canopy is the topmost area.

The Understory is made up of

  • High Shrubs

  • Low Shrubs

  • High Plants

  • Low Plants including Ephemeral and Ground Covers

  • Vines

The Root Zone consists of soil, roots, and a variety of organisms necessary to plant and land health

Not only does including a variety of plant heights look better, but it also benefits a greater variety of birds and other beneficial creatures.

Consider both the vertical area (that stretches from your soil to the treetop canopy) as well as the horizontal area (the size of your lot).

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Structural Diversity  -Vertical layering

Vertical layering is an artist technique using multiple layers or mixed borders, such as a tree with varying heights of shrubs and/or ground covers underneath.
Vertical layering increases the variety of plants in an area. That is not only beautiful, but can provide more food for pollinators, wildlife and people and more habitat for beneficial wildlife. It also reduces the amount of maintenance needed for the landscaping.

Keep the soil covered by plants or adding mulch.  It will greatly reduce the amount of water transpiration, soil erosion, and weeds that will germinate in your garden, 

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Vertical layering adds beauty, interest, and increased potential for variety.

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Textural Diversity adds beauty and interest

Something upright,
              something bold,
something delicate

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Use the shape of the land and the availability of light and water to shape your design.

When you're designing a landscaping, keep planting zones in mind. 

  • Group plants together that all have the same needs.  

  • Consider the mature size of a plant.  Make sure they have room to grow.

  • Make sure plants that require a lot of water are near a water source. (Sometimes that means a hose or rain catchment)

  • Make sure that plants that require more sun are not planted next to a plant that will grow up and shade them out.

  • Make sure that plants that require more of your attention are easily accessible. 

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The more bare ground in your garden, the more you will be fighting invasions of weeds.

Keep the soil covered by plants or adding mulch.  It will greatly reduce the amount of water transpiration, soil erosion, and weeds that will germinate in your garden, 

Choose a variety of plants, including shrubs, flowers and grasses, to create variety in color, height and texture.


Consider the year-round look of your rain garden – clumping grasses will hold their shape throughout the winter, and many types of shrubs develop striking red branches in the colder months.


Consider your home’s existing landscape, and the landscaping of the surrounding neighborhood.

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If the garden is near the road, consider sight lines and setbacks

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Edging (such as pavers, stones, etc.) can facilitate access for maintenance and provide separation from lawn and other landscaped areas.

To maintain access to the middle of the garden for weeding and other tasks. A few strategically placed flat rocks or pavers can allow access without compacting the soil or leaving room for weeds.

Turf grass vs other vegetation

Water flowing as sheet flow across a vegetated area is slowed, filtered and, given the opportunity to re-infiltrate into the soil. While turf grass is better than pavement, research has demonstrated that areas covered with turf grass control much less water than other vegetation, especially when comparing grass areas with naturally wooded areas or forests. Therefore, in keeping with the goals of nonstructural LID s, the amount of lawns and other grass areas at land development sites should be minimized. Instead, alternative vegetation, particularly native plants, should be used to revegetate disturbed site areas.

The use of plants can provide a low-maintenance alternative to turf grass, resulting in lower fertilizer and water needs. The use of native ground cover, shrubs, and trees instead of turf grass can create infiltration characteristics similar to those of natural areas. These plants can also provide better habitat and create food sources for songbirds and small animals. Native landscaping can also be used to provide property screening, summer shade, and year-round landscaping interest. In selecting, vegetation, consideration should be given to height, density, and other growth patterns, visual appearance, anticipated use of the planted area, and other maintenance needs. Dense vegetative cover, long flow path lengths, and low surface slopes provide the most effective vegetated filters.

If you have excessive lawns, consider reducing the size of it. Changes can be made gradually over several seasons.
A good place to start is with areas already established with shrubs and trees. They can be expanded in width and include ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds, and/ or tiered shrub plantings.

Hedge the edge
Erase the center
Cut Corners
Widen existing beds

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Include native plants in your landscapes.

Native plants can be hard to find, but they are becoming more and more common and more and more affordable. They are, also, more cost-effective in the long run because they are naturally adapted to local growing conditions. They require less water, fertilizer, maintenance and replanting. Native plants are also known to be very effective in managing storm water because many species have deep root systems which stabilize soil and facilitate the infiltration of storm water runoff. Additionally, native plants​ support local wildlife, including insects such as bees and butterflies, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. 

Care should be taken to not plant invasive species as they tend to crowd out the native species. Some common groundcovers, shrubs, and vines are invasive and are prohibited from being planted. Refer to the state list of invasive plants.  

Dead flower stalks and leaves serve as winter habitat for numerous insects in their larval stages. If you’re getting rid of an introduced tree, consider girdling it and leaving part of the trunk standing. You will be amazed at what shows up!


The preservation of existing natural vegetated areas is a nonstructural LID-BMP that should be considered

throughout the design of a land development.  Ideally, the more natural area to be preserved, the better.


Using plants as a nonstructural LID technique can significantly reduce the impact of rainwater.  

Vegetated areas provide a pervious surface for groundwater recharge, particularly during dormant or non-growing seasons. In addition, vegetation can remove pollutants from the runoff flowing through it.

Vegetative filters and buffers can be created by preserving existing vegetated areas over which runoff will flow or by planting new vegetation.

Vegetative filters located immediately downstream of impervious surfaces such as roadways and parking lots can achieve pollutant removal, groundwater recharge, and runoff volume reduction.

Vegetated buffers adjacent to streams, creeks, and other waterways and water bodies can also help mitigate thermal runoff impacts, provide wildlife habitat, and increase site aesthetics.